COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Columbus Blue Jackets were supposed to have learned something from their first playoff experience – a first-round sweep at the hands of the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.
They still have a long way to go.
Detroit scored four times early in the first period and Niklas Kronwall had two power-play goals and an assist to lift the Red Wings past the Blue Jackets 9-1 on Wednesday night.
“I thought from the get-go we really came out with a good push,” Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We got a couple goals early on their goalie and we didn’t let up.”
Justin Abdelkader tallied two late goals, Dan Cleary, Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi each had a goal and assist, and Kris Draper and Ville Leino also scored for Detroit, which despite major injuries to several key players and a recent loss to lowly Toronto are 5-1-1 in their last seven games.
Henrik Zetterberg added two assists, and Jimmy Howard made 25 saves to improve to 2-2-1 with the Red Wings.
“I obviously wasn’t very happy with our last game and I let the guys know about that,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “We played with good structure. We got a lot of pucks to the net, which is important, and things turned out well for us.”
Detroit’s victory was the most lopsided in the series and the worst home defeat ever for the Blue Jackets.
Rick Nash had the lone goal for Columbus, which had won two straight and earned points in five consecutive games.
“We’ve got to make sure this game is forgotten pretty quickly,” captain Nash said.
Detroit picked up where it left off after last season’s sweep in the first round of the playoffs. The Red Wings outscored the Blue Jackets 18-7 in that series.
Poor breakouts, spotty defensive-zone coverage and shaky goaltending helped Detroit take a 4-0 lead just past the midway mark of the opening period.
Steve Mason, who had a .878 save percentage and 4.27 goals-against-average in the four-game series, allowed three goals on six shots and was yanked after playing just 7:32. Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock put him back in to start the second period.
“I think with him (Hitchcock) putting me back in shows that he was trying to get some momentum,” said Mason, who allowed eight goals on 27 shots.
It took a minute for Cleary to get the Red Wings on the board.
A pass from defenceman Fedor Tyutin hit off the back of Samuel Pahlsson’s skate and came to Zetterberg, whose shot from the high slot deflected to Cleary for the easy stuff.
Two minutes later, Datsyuk grabbed another loose puck on a bad Columbus clearing attempt and wristed a shot from the left circle. Jan Hejda then swept the puck off the wall to Brett Lebda at the right point, who fired a shot that Draper redirected in at 7:32.
Mason’s replacement, Mathieu Garon, made several tough saves the rest of the frame. He couldn’t see around Bertuzzi’s screen to stop Kronwall’s third on a slap shot from the point with the Red Wings on the power play to make it 4-0 at 11:57.
Nash backhanded in his 12th at 10:56 of the second period, but he wasn’t in the mood to discuss his goal.
“Yeah they played a solid game but we played terrible,” Nash said. “It’s just a matter of us not showing up.”
But Detroit countered with two goals in 33 seconds about two minutes later to expand their lead to 6-1.
“We stuck to our system from the drop of the puck until the end of the game,” Howard said. “When we play like that it’s going to be a long night for the other team.”
Kronwall scored at 4:17 of the third.
“I don’t know about that,” said Babcock when asked if this was a statement game against Central Division co-leaders Columbus. “We’re trying to get a win. If that’s a statement then great. It’s just one of 82, as you know, and you’ve got to get wins.”
NOTES: Blue Jackets RW Raffi Torres was hit in the face and bloodied by a deflected slap shot with 2:50 remaining in the first period. He didn’t return. … Hitchcock, in his fourth season with Columbus, was recognized for becoming the 16th coach to reach 1,000 NHL games. His career record is 520-329-88-63 with Dallas, Philadelphia and the Blue Jackets. … It was the first time the clubs have met with the Blue Jackets above Detroit in the Central Division standings. Columbus entered the league in 2000. … The Red Wings claimed F Drew Miller off waivers from the Tampa Bay Lightning. … Detroit regulars Johan Franzen (knee surgery), Valtteri Filppula (broken wrist) and Jason Williams (broken leg) are out with long-term injuries.